This is continued from my perilous post on Aryeh Kaplan. I may combine both posts into one longer post for posterity.
When Rabbi Leonard Kaplan first showed up to the pulpit in Mason City Iowa, he gave a talk to the sisterhood on the process of his receiving ordination in Israel. I wonder how awkward this was, especially with the head of the sisterhood leading the opening prayer and despite his immense learning, his having to shepherd girl scouts and teach once a week Hebrew school.
Ordination of a “Rabbi in Israel” was the topic discussed by Rabbi Leonard Kaplan at the joint meeting of Adas Israel Sisterhood and Hadassah in the synagogue Thursday. Rabbi Kaplan received his theological training at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, New York and Mirrer Yeshiva in New York and in Jerusalem. He was ordained in Israel with ordination both at the seminary and by the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel.
The Opening prayer was given by Mrs. L. IT. Wolf
The girl scout Sabbath was announced at the March services
A purim cantata.. . wil be presented Sunday evening. At 7:30 PM
Mrs. Kaplan was welcomed as a new member.
Rabbi Kaplan was quite active in interfaith events, our reader David Zinner already pointed to one of them. In a church interfaith meeting and potluck meal, which followed a vote by the Episcopalians allowing women to the vestry, Kaplan addressed them with a universal message. Each relgion speaks for God and we should not limit God to our own faith. Back to his mathematical model, knowing only one religion is flat and one dimensional, to truly know God we need the multi-dimensional view. All religions are one part of the infinite depth of God.
Mason City Globe Gazette – • January 17, 1966 – • Page 15
St. John’s Episcopal Church Sunday night became the first Episcopal Church in the state reported as electing two women to its vestry. Elected to the local congregation’s administrative body…
In the general annual meeting which followed a potluck meal, the group heard Rabbi Leonard M Kaplan of Adas Israel Synagogue say:
“ We often spend much effort in making a god out of our particular religion. Shouldn’t we spend just as much effort in making our religion a religion of God?” Rabbi Kaplan called for efforts to appreciate strange and often exotic religions, understanding that each one speaks for God and may even have a message for us.
For many of the world’s people, Rabbi Kaplan said, religion is the most important thing in their lives and understanding them calls for understanding their view of God.
“In a sense, every religion is an open eye upon God, giving us its own flat, one-dimensional view, He said. It is only the totality of them all that can give us a multidimensional view of the Divine and a panorama of infinite depth.…”
Rabbi Kaplan said that many scholars are finding they must study mankind as “a single gigantic organism… spread over the face of the earth.
“If it were God’s purpose in creating this creature that is mankind, to create a being that perceive the divine, then is it not logical that He should have given it many senses?”
“The eye does not hate the ear for not seeing. The ear does not despise the nose for not hearing. The many religions perceive God, each in a different way. But as long as they all look toward God, they are one.“
Here, in this article, he welcomes Sister Mary Josita and her Bible students to the synagogue and explains the Sefer Torah to them.
After explain the Shofar, he quips that the shofar ‘will probably not be the type to be blown by Gabriel at the second coming.” ” G a b r i el would never put the Beatles out of business.” He seems to have done quite a few wedding jointly with Reform and Conservative clergy- here and here. Among his activities, he took the time to write to Dear Abby about cherubs.
DEAR ‘ABBY: You are not likely to find any girl cherubs (or cherubim) since the Hebrew word “cherub” is a noun of masculine gender. According to the Hebrew grammar, a girl cherub would not be a cherub at all, but a “chewbah.” And the plural of “cherubah” is “cheruboth”— not “cherubim,”—which is the plural of “cherub^’
RABBI LEONARD M. KAPLAN , MASON CITY. IA.
It seems that he did not entirely switch to from Leonard to Aryeh in 72-73. As a Rabbinic consultant for the movie Yentl in 1980, he still used the name Leonard in the stories and byline.
“Rabbi Leonard Kaplan,” the writer reports, “enjoyed advising the cast on ritual and its meaning. He showed them how to sway and bend while they pray, explained what it means to study the Talmud and in general helped the cast understand the outlook of a religious Jew
Rabbi Kaplan was not upset by his association with a play which contains nudity as well as a woman dressed as a man ‘It is an abomination,'” he admitted, “‘But so what?
For those looking for a good introduction to Aryeh Kaplan during the years 73-83, when Kaplan lived and struggled in Kensington, I recommend Perle Besserman, Pilgrimage : adventures of a wandering Jew
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1979. Perle describes her journeys to India and Israel interspersed with two in-depth visits to Aryeh Kaplan’s living room world. The underemployed Kaplan gave classes in his home on Shabbat and during the week on the deep inner meaning to reality to a variety of seekers including the variety of modern orthodox psychologists listed in the introduction to Jewish meditation, Jews on return from India, those who also hung around Reb Shlomo Carelbach and Reb Zalman, and those who just crashed on his couch. She called Kaplan’s teachings a form of karma yoga, a path of deeds and the deeds that you do cause a perfection of your soul. The book also contains a rare 1970’s interview with Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Kook. (h/t for Pilgrimage- R. Yosef Blau circa 1991).